Humble, lowly, and joyful

Continuing on the trend set by Habakkuk yesterday, I have come to Zephaniah 3 and a rather compelling chunk of Scripture in which the word “joy” or “rejoice” appears no less than 5 times in rapid succession. You would expect such a concentration of occurrences in the recollection of a birth or conquest or tremendous movement of God, but the third chapter of Zephaniah – and indeed, the entire book of Zephaniah – is a plea for the people of God to return to Him and a promise that, in short order, He “will remove your proud, arrogant people from among you, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.” In other words, judgment is at hand for the nation of Israel, and that judgment will bring them to the brink of absolute destruction. Yet we see a bid for those who will still survive – the remnant, if you will – to remain joyful.

When I think of a remnant, the image which comes to my mind is generally that of some pathetic refugees. Their clothes are tattered, their faces are smudged with dirt, their expressions are forlorn, and they are utterly destitute. And if you get right down to it, that’s exactly what God says is going to happen to the people of Israel here in Zephaniah. Except for the forlorn looks, that is. Instead, even after they have lost everything, the remnant of Israel will have joy and rejoice. Why?

Because even though they are but a remnant, as we learn in vs. 13, “The remnant of Israel will no longer do wrong or tell lies; a deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. But they will pasture and lie down, with nothing to make them afraid.”

In short, the remnant will have been purged of their sin, and even though they will have lost virtually everything in the process, they will have no more reason to be afraid. Because God will once again be with them.

That’s pretty cool to know that, as bad as things may be, when sin has been purged, God’s favor will return to whoever is left.

But there is something else here, just three verses later. In verse 17, we find this interesting revelation: “Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

Did I read that right? Not only will the remnant have cause for joy and rejoicing, but God, also, will be joyful and rejoicing when only a remnant of His people is left!

I suppose it makes sense because the sin would be purged, and they would be a people completely committed to Him and all that. Surely, that is grounds for Him to rejoice! But what is that when so many were dead, and the few remaining had almost nothing left to them?

Here’s the thing. God rejoices over people who are fully committed to Him, regardless of the shape they’re in. So I could be a rich and powerful man with the ability to snap my fingers and change the world, and God would rejoice over me if (and only if) I was completely committed to Him. Or I could be an utterly destitute man living in the gutter without even the soap to take a shower, and God would rejoice over me if (and only if) I was completely committed to Him.

God rejoices over me when I make Him my first and foremost priority and rejoice over Him. No matter what I bring – or don’t bring – to the table. Because, and I guess this is a fundamental shift in my paradigm, even if I bring nothing to the table, He still brings everything. And as a point of fact, even if I bring what seems (to me) to be absolutely everything to the table, in His eyes, it’s still absolutely nothing.


I need to rejoice in God, even if I am one of the pathetic remnant. And I need to rest in the fact that, even if I am one of the pathetic remnant, He still rejoices over me the moment I commit myself wholly to Him.


1 Response to “Humble, lowly, and joyful”

  1. 1 Joy December 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts. They are a brilliant reminder that God is all and He alone is plenty to rejoice or have joy in.
    Your blog post has been a blessing to me today.

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